COMMENTARY | If the Los Angeles Dodgers are still contemplating whether or not to lock up starting pitcher Clayton Kershaw with a lucrative contract extension, his performance on opening day should have erased any lingering doubts.
As if the complete-game shutout against the defending champs wasn't enough, the All-Star supplied the only offense he would need in the game with his first career home run.
Kershaw dominated every facet of the game. But this is nothing new for the southpaw from Texas. Kershaw has been dominating the league for a while now. Entering this season, he owns the lowest earned run average of any starting pitcher since the beginning of 2009. Throw in his 2011 Cy Young Award and it is clear that Kershaw is a special talent.
If there has ever been a time for Los Angeles to ensure that its prized pitcher remains in Dodger blue for years to come, that time is now. Guggenheim Baseball Management, the team's new ownership group led by Magic Johnson, promised a future of success when it bought the franchise nearly a year ago. With the highest payroll in baseball at the start of the 2013 season, as well as the multi-million dollar renovations to Dodger Stadium, ownership has stayed true to its word and is not shy about pouring in the necessary money.
The necessary money now must go to Kershaw. The left-hander will make $11 million this season and is under the team's control through 2014. But why wait until then when Kershaw has solidified himself as one of the game's best pitchers? Why wait until 2014 when the man just turned in an opening day for the ages? Why wait when Kershaw has the lowest earned run average against the division rival San Francisco Giants than any other pitcher in history?
The Dodgers need him now, and seeing how he's only 25 years old, the Dodgers are going to need him for many more years if they want to keep pace with the Giants and their own corps of young stud pitchers.
But how much money does Kershaw deserve?
Well, the Dodgers in their recent spending spree gave starter Zack Greinke $147 million over eight years -- and Kershaw is simply better than Greinke. A more reasonable measuring stick would be someone like Justin Verlander, last season's American League Cy Young Award winner. Detroit just doled out $180 million to Verlander over five years. That comes out to $36 million per year, a deserving amount considering he is the best right-handed pitcher in baseball.
But Verlander is also five years older than Kershaw. Take this into account and it would stand to reason that Kershaw, who is arguably just as talented as Verlander, would be rewarded with a longer extension because he is younger. In other words, Kershaw could very well become the first $200 million pitcher in baseball history.
This exorbitant amount would have never even registered on the Dodgers' radar two years ago when management was handcuffed under the cash-strapped ownership of Frank McCourt. But now, with money seemingly growing on trees around Chavez Ravine, the Dodgers' commitment to winning is at an all-time high. Kershaw has shown his dominance. Now the Dodgers must show him their gratitude. It is time for the Dodgers to continue their current trend of splurging since it has been so easy for them over the past few months.
It is time for the Dodgers to pay Kershaw, and pay him well.
Nick Ostiller was born and raised in Los Angeles and currently lives in Santa Clara. He is a sports reporter at The Santa Clara and contributes content for Sidelines. He has also worked for Outlook Newspapers. Follow him on Twitter @nicko229.
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